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13 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food

By: Anna Frinzi

Have you ever experienced a strong feeling where food seems like the only viable option to soothe your emotions? This feeling can be caused by a stressful day, disagreement, low energy, minimal sleep, the list goes on and on. It might be tempting to go for your favorite comfort food such as chocolate, mac n’ cheese, pizza, sweets, chicken noodle soup, Grandma’s homemade ginger snap cookies, or even biscuits and gravy to soothe your distress. Take a moment before you soothe with food to try something on this list!

1.Walk away-literally go for a walk. Grab Fido or your favorite family member or friend for a stroll to engage your body in some intentional movement.

2. Try a progressive muscle relaxation sequence. Tense each muscle up in your body starting at the top of your head and going all the way down to your toes. Creating this controlled tension and release can help relax your body. Noom has its own muscle progressive relaxation recording if you sign up today and if you’re a subscriber, ask your coach!

3. Take a nap! Sometimes we reach for food when we are tired or bored and taking a quick snooze can help satisfy these urges. A quick 20-30-minute nap is recommended and can provide a significant benefit for improved alertness, performance, and mood without interrupting our nighttime slumber (National Sleep Foundation).

4. Engage in a new hobby! It’s never too late to start something new. Try woodworking, gardening, painting, scrapbooking, Origami folding, solving a Rubik’s cube, photography, learn a new language, making pottery, playing a new sport, pick up an instrument or dancing. Watch some how-to videos online or research some local community classes in your area. Be creative and get inspired!

5. Talk away stress or worries with a family member or friend. Call someone you have not connected with in a while and soothe yourself as you chat through your thoughts and feelings.

6. Surf the wave! Visualize your craving as a wave that will rise, then crest and go down. Dive through the wave of an urge that passes by. Your only job is to watch that craving go with the wave and crash over you. Observe and let it pass.

7. Get a massage. Whether you decide to book a massage or self-massage, this self-care technique can help lower the stress response that is occurring in the moments that we crave food.

8. Find a new way to unwind at night. The evening is the prime time for those temptations to arise. Form a new nighttime routine to combat this such as making calming tea, cuddling with your pet, meditating, take a soothing bubble bath, use essential oils, or any other relaxing activity. Try swapping any late-night screen time (Hello Netflix!) with a healthier alternative task.  

9. Keep your hands occupied! Try an activity that will keep your hands from reaching for a snack, such as knitting, reading a book, attempting a crossword puzzle, reading aloud to your children, or playing a game. Engaging your mind in a different activity will help lower the temptation to turn to food for comfort.

10. Make a hot or cold cup of tea and enjoy each sip mindfully. Green tea has been shown to improve relaxation, tension, and calmness so keep on sipping! (Dietz & Dekker) Thich Nhat Hanh has the right idea around tea when he says, “Tea is an act complete in its simplicity. When I drink tea, there is only me and the tea. The rest of the world dissolves…There is only the tea, and me converging (Nhãt Hanh).”

11. Laugh! Find something that prompts your laughter whether it be contacting a funny friend for a chuckle, watching a video that never ceases to make you laugh, turning on a hilarious movie or doing something to entertain your own sense of humor.

12. Keep a mindfulness journal! Write down your emotions, frame of mind, and thoughts in a journal. Whenever your mind says “I want this food right now”, take a moment to pause and jot your feelings down.

13. Last but not least… If you do feel the need for a snack and are truly hungry, grab a fruit or vegetable! Fruits and veggies are packed with fiber that will fill you up and can be enjoyed mindfully.

Some of these ideas may or may not seem like they could work for you. At Noom, we encourage you to replace your cravings with a healthy, actionable task and challenge you to try this technique! You could even keep this list in a place that is easily accessible or print it off to place on your refrigerator as a reminder when you are tempted to soothe with food. The next time you feel the desire to self soothe with food, which of these tips will you attempt?